The Conservatives have lost former leader Margaret Thatcher’s ‘favourite council’ Wandsworth to Labour in a significant boost for Sir Keir Starmer’s party.
The south London council had been held by the Conservatives for more than forty years, turning blue in 1978 just before Mrs Thatcher’s election as prime minister.
A Labour source said: “Boris Johnson losing Wandsworth is monumental. This was the Tories’ jewel in the crown.
“Voters in Wandsworth have put their trust in the change Keir Starmer’s Labour represents.”
The authority, known for its low taxes, was considered a “definite loss” by Conservative insiders soon after the polls closed in Scotland, Wales and many parts of England at 22:00 on Thursday evening.
In securing Conservative stronghold, Labour won both seats in the new Wandle and Trinity wards, with shadow minister Rosena Allin-Khan and London Mayor Sadiq Khan celebrated together as the results came in.
Politics Hub: Live updates as Liberal Democrats gain Kingston-upon-Hull
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Graphic below shows overall picture in England
PM under pressure in London
Trinity was seen as a key area that the party wanted to win as it was the Conservatives most marginal ward on the estimated new boundaries.
Wandsworth includes Putney which was Labour’s only gain at the 2019 general election.
In more bad news for Boris Johnson, Wandsworth is just one area in London where his government has battled to hold on to power in these local elections.
The Conservatives are also increasingly pessimistic about the situation in Westminster, a council they have run since its creation in 1964.
“We will lose it,” a senior Tory source told the PA news agency.
Elsewhere, Conservatives insiders think the party may also struggle to hold Barnet.
Barnet has one of the UK’s largest Jewish populations, and after the Labour Party was dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism under former leader Jeremy Corbyn, a win here would be seen as a significant turnaround for Sir Keir.
There were early positive signs for Labour as they made gains from the Conservatives in the West Hendon and Whetstone wards. However, the final results are not expected in Barnet until after dawn.
You can find results where you live with our dedicated elections service. And we’ll have a special election programme on Sky News from 11pm onwards
Lib Dems take Hull from Labour
However, a mixed picture is emerging for Sir Keir Starmer’s party outside the capital.
Labour will be pleased to have gained Southampton from the Conservatives, overturning the small majority Mr Johnson’s party had there.
But, although Labour also gained the new Cumberland authority, the Liberal Democrats took Kingston-upon-Hull in what will be seen as a big defeat for Sir Keir’s party.
The Lib Dems have also declared victory in West Oxfordshire, where the Conservatives have lost their majority which had been held since 2000.
Elsewhere, in the first result of the night, announced just under two-and-a-half hours since the polls closed, the Conservatives held Broxbourne – a Hertfordshire stronghold.
The Conservatives also held Basildon, but elsewhere in Essex, the Conservative leader of Colchester Council lost his seat to the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Johnson’s party also failed to take control of Peterborough, where the party needed to gain two seats, with the party now running the council under minority control.
Conservative leader of Carlisle City Council, John Mallinson, said the prime minister should be moved on after his party suffered a mass defeat in a local election.
First results announced
Voting has been taking place for councils in some parts of England, with more than 4,000 seats up for grabs, as well as across the whole of Scotland and Wales, each with more than 1,000 seats at stake.
The elections decide who will be responsible for handling local issues such as planning, housing and rubbish collections – but wider national issues such as the surge in the cost of living have also come to the fore.
Results, coming in over the next couple of days, could also prove key to the future of the prime minister – and whether rumblings of backbench discontent escalate into a chorus of opposition triggering a no-confidence vote.
They will also shed light on whether Sir Keir has been able to make ground amid the pressures facing the PM as a result of partygate as well as the cost of living crisis.
Sky Data analysis has found that the voting picture in England reflects current polling – suggesting a ten point drop for the Tories since the general election and a small Labour lead.
In Northern Ireland, 90 assembly members are being elected – with tensions high as polls point to Sinn Fein overtaking the DUP as the largest party, suggesting Northern Ireland could have a nationalist first minister for the first time.
Mayoral votes have also been taking place – in South Yorkshire, Croydon, Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Watford. In Bristol, a referendum has been held on whether to scrap the directly-elected mayor system in the city.
In England, around half of councils are expected to begin their vote counts overnight, with the remaining local authorities starting on Friday morning. In Scotland and Wales, counting does not begin until Friday, with the earliest results not expected until that afternoon.
Poll suggested Labour would make advances
A YouGov poll for Sky News earlier this week suggested Labour was on course to make advances in key battlegrounds but would possibly struggle to take over significant numbers of councils outright.
The elections came on the same day that the Bank of England issued a recession warning and predicted that inflation would top 10% later this year – its highest level in four decades – signalling a tightening cost of living squeeze.